A Rothschild’s Giraffe has been born at Paignton Zoo. The male calf was born to mother Janica on the morning of May 19. Sadly, his mother rejected him, so zookeepers have stepped in to bottle feed him.
Senior Keeper, Craig Gilchrist, said, “He has taken milk from us; he is getting the hang of it. Mammal keepers, Helen Neighbour and Jim Dicks, are doing the feeding. He is separated from the group but can see them all. For the first few days, it is important to keep him separate to allow him to bond with the keepers so he feels comfortable enough to feed from them. As soon as possible, he will be reintroduced to the herd so he doesn’t forget he is a giraffe!”
Paignton Zoo Curator of Mammals, Neil Bemment, added, “At this stage we don’t know why Janica has rejected him. Giraffe mothers are fickle beasts. Sometimes they will rear their calves, sometimes they won’t. For example, Janica reared her first, Tonda, who is now the breeding bull at Chessington Zoo, Surrey, but declined to rear her second Valentino, who was successfully hand reared by the keepers, reintroduced to the family group, and is now in Port Lympne Zoo, Kent.”
Paignton Zoo is going to get through a lot of milk over the next few months. Craig added, “At the moment we need about 4 to 6 litres of gold top milk each day. He will take in around 10% of his body weight in milk each day and gain weight just as quickly. As he grows, so will his milk requirements.”
Hand rearing a giraffe is a lot of extra work and commitment for the keepers. “He is fed 4 times a day and could need milk for up to 9 months. We will start weaning him when he is around 5 to 6 months, depending on how he gets on.”
The calf stands at nearly six feet tall at birth. The gestation period for a giraffe is between 400 and 460 days. The mother gives birth standing up, and the fall breaks the umbilical cord. The calf can stand and run within a few hours.
Father, Yoda, came from Givskud Zoo, Denmark, where he was born on 14th November 2004. He arrived at Devon in September 2006. Janica came to Paignton Zoo from Duvr Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic.
The Zoo’s other adult female is Sangha, who came from Liberec Zoo, also in the Czech Republic. The other youngsters at the Zoo are Otilie, who was born in September 2012, and Joanna, born in January 2014 (both to mother Sangha) and Eliska, born in January last year to Janica.
All the giraffes at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park (a registered charity in the UK) are Rothschild’s Giraffes.
The Rothschild’s Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi), also known as the Baringo Giraffe, is one of the most threatened of the nine sub-species of giraffe. It is named after the Tring Museum’s founder, Walter Rothschild.
All individuals living in the wild are in protected areas in Kenya and Uganda. The Rothschild’s Giraffe is at risk of hybridization and is currently classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List, due to habitat destruction and poaching. Its geographic distribution includes central Kenya, northern Uganda and southern Sudan. According to latest figures, there are fewer than 1,500 individuals in the wild.
The Rothschild’s Giraffe is distinguishable from other subspecies because of its coloring. Where as the Reticulated Giraffe has very defined dark patches with bright channels between, the Rothschild’s has paler, orange-brown patches that are less defined. Also, the Rothschild’s has no markings on the lower leg.
This subspecies mate any time of year and have a gestation period of 14 to 16 months, typically giving birth to a single calf. They prefer to live in small herds, with adult males and females only mixing for mating. Males are larger than females and tend to be darker in color.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: “Current estimates of population size [of the Rothschild’s Giraffe] are well below 2,500 mature individuals, numbers are declining overall and no subpopulation is estimated to contain more than 250 mature individuals. The population is potentially close to meeting the population threshold for Critically Endangered under criterion C, depending on the number of individuals, if any, that survive in south Sudan.”